B2B Marketers Can Learn From Starbucks How To Get Back In Touch With Buyer Personas


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You have to love the rebound Starbucks has been able to achieve over the past couple of years.  Even more impressive in the midst of the economic environment that plagues us still.  The return of Howard Schultz as CEO has led to the announcement that Starbucks will pay out it’s first-ever dividend. 

Troy Alstead, Chief Financial Officer for Starbucks, was quoted in the New York Times Dealbook blog as saying: “From what we can see, and also the research we do, I think the consumer sporadically feels a bit better about themselves than a year ago,” Mr. Alstead said. However, he added, Starbucks is expecting continued high unemployment and “a slow, slow recovery.” 

Now to be fair, part of their rebound can be attributed to the closing of many locations and laying off thousands of employees in a brutal cost cutting endeavor by Schultz.  However, you cannot miss the reference to “the research we do” by Alstead.  One thing Schultz did prior to his departure and now in his return was emphasize the need to understand customers – and not just at a cursory level.  Understanding the customer is interwoven into the DNA of Starbucks.  Researching and actually getting out there and talking to customers are not just talk. 

What people and employees alike lost during the years of aggressive expansion of locations by Starbucks was the watering down of the experience they came to love.  Let’s face it, if you are willing to pay 2 to 4 bucks for java – it better be good and it better mean the “place” is something you want to frequent.  What Starbucks gets is that their “buyer personas” want more than coffee and they want the social experience that comes with it.  Starbucks will contribute 5 cents for every cup of Starbucks Red Africa sold to a Global Fund to help people living with HIV.  For education, they are partnering with MSNBC show Morning Cup of Joe and donating the same to an Education Fund.  These efforts provide people with the experience of social responsibility while offering a good cup of coffee. 

What I love that’s happening here is that Starbucks is finding their inner self again and getting back in touch with customers in a way they came to endear.  I suspect there are many B2B companies trying to find their inner selves again.  One way to find it is to get back in touch with your buyer personas.  Not at just the cursory level but also spending the time – and yes money! – to understand your customers in a way that it bleeds into the DNA of the organization.   

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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